© Jerry Couch
Originally published November 30, 2017 in the final print edition of the Clinch Valley Times
The Tri-County News
Ancestor of the Clinch Valley Times
The first issue of the Tri-County News was published in St. Paul on Thursday, December 29, 1938. The paper’s masthead featured its optimistic slogan, “The Biggest Little Paper Around Here.” Publishers of the newspaper were Rev. Finis Jennings Dake and his wife, Rev. Dorothy Dake.
During the year the Dakes spent in St. Paul, Finis Dake did not actively serve as minister of a church. Instead, he devoted his time to publishing his fledgling newspaper as well as printing religious tracts and leaflets which were distributed in person and by mail. Dake may also have been involved in religious broadcasts at a radio station in Bristol.
Mrs. Dorothy Dake served as minister of the Banner Gospel Tabernacle near Coeburn. Particularly noteworthy was one of her teaching tools; a large and very complicated tapestry which illustrated “God’s Plan For The Ages.”
The Tri-County News’ headquarters was originally located in a small building behind the old Assembly of God church on Third Avenue (currently the Masonic Lodge). The Dakes had probably known Rev. Caleb McAfee of the Assembly of God prior to their arrival in St. Paul. According to an account in The Story of Wise County Virginia by Luther Addington, type for the Tri-County News was set at a larger newspaper which had the special equipment for the work. The paper itself was printed on a small press in St. Paul. The Dakes also used a large mimeograph machine for other types of printing.
Advertising trickled in at first. Because the Dakes weren’t local people, they lacked the social and family network which would have helped smooth their way. Also, St Paul had been without a community newspaper of its own since the short-lived St. Paul News had gone out of business in the 1920’s. Local folks probably weren’t very interested in this new paper at first, figuring the Dakes wouldn’t stick around St. Paul very long. And there was another problem….
Prior to coming to St. Paul, Finis Dake had done time in Federal prison. In 1937, he pled guilty to charges he had violated the Mann Act by transporting a 16-year-old girl over the Wisconsin state line for an “immoral purpose.” To avoid risking the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, Dake entered into a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Mrs. Dake and many members of his congregation maintained his innocence, asserting that he had been set up. A large crowd of loyal supporters were spectators in court when he was sentenced and taken to prison.
Whether by request or by choice, Dake resigned his Assembly of God ministry and forfeited his ordination. The case had gained embarrassing national media attention. Despite his low profile in St. Paul, people here were aware of what he had done. The Dakes endured this gauntlet of curious looks and whispered speculation, though it must have been very difficult for them and for their young daughter.
Meanwhile, the little newspaper grew ever so slowly. Soon it had outgrown its humble beginnings in the Assembly of God’s shed. The Tri-County News moved to a new location in the basement of the old St. Paul National Bank on Fourth Avenue. The paper featured more advertising, including an ad for Dorothy Dake’s fresh, homemade donuts which were available at the newspaper office one day each week. The St. Paul Baking Company (the present location of Giovanni’s Pizza) had closed by this time, so Mrs. Dake’s donuts were a nice way to attract potential customers to the newspaper office.
In his spare time, we can be sure Finis Dake continued work on what would become his lifetime achievement – The Dake Annotated Reference Bible. This is a monumental effort which took years to create. Today, The Dake Annotated Reference Bible remains both popular and controversial. Many ministers and evangelists, including Jimmy Swaggart and Benny Hinn have stated they use it and find it to be of merit. Others say it is one man’s opinion and nothing more.
As for the Dakes, they left St. Paul in 1939 when Finis Dake became affiliated with the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. The Tri-County News was sold to George McIndoe and Harley McClanahan. Finis and Dorothy Dake enjoyed an enduring marriage of 60 years and their life was free of further scandal. He died in 1987, having added his name to the long list of people who once called St. Paul “home.”
Another early owner of the Tri-County News was George T. Coleman, Jr. Around 1940, Coleman purchased the paper rom George McIndoe and Harley McClanahan of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Coleman was the right man for the newspaper, its time and its place. He was restless and ambitious, determined to seize all opportunities that were within his reach. He apparently enjoyed people and, in time, his life would intersect with the lives of nearly every person in St. Paul.
In addition to the reminisces of various individuals, an early local reference to Coleman comes from the June 30, 1938 edition of the Kingsport Times. Coleman’s name is listed among the teachers who had been hired by Russell County for the 1938-1939 school year at the Dante Central School. Later, George Coleman operated the St. Paul Theatre, which had formerly been known as the Gaiety Theatre. During WWII he joined the military and became a member of the 95th Infantry Division.
In surviving issues of the Tri-County News, George Coleman’s editorial style is humorous and thoughtful. He wrote about himself and his reactions to life and to local and world events. Meanwhile, the paper was growing. It was being printed in a larger format and featured more pages.
By 1941, George Coleman had leased the Tri-County News to A. E. Bales. Advertising increased, making the paper a delight to modern eyes. The country was preparing for war and St. Paul was being pulled along by this current of events.
At the conclusion of WWII, George Coleman embarked upon a new and challenging project – construction of the Cavalier Theatre on Broad Street (known today as The Phillips Building). Kyle Fletcher recalls Coleman working on the new theater building as it took shape. Upon its completion, Coleman and his wife, Hazel, lived in an apartment at the rear of the building. It was a fine achievement for a former high school teacher and member of “The Greatest Generation.”
On November 11, 1954, Coleman died of injuries sustained in a fall from a ladder at the Lyric Theatre. He had been helping prepare the theater for the second performance of the annual Lions Club Minstrel Show. His career had been brief, but it had been significant. Today George Coleman is well-remembered by senior St. Paul residents.
The Lebanon News and the Clinch Valley Times
The history of the Clinch Valley Times is also entwined with the history of the Lebanon News. The Lebanon News proudly proclaims it has been “Russell County’s Family Newspaper Since 1880.”
In 1958, the Bausell family (owners of the Lebanon News) decided to expand the scope of their operations by purchasing the Clinch Valley Times in St. Paul. At the time of their purchase, the Clinch Valley Times has been dormant for several years.
A quick look through the pages of the August 28, 1958 issue of the Clinch Valley Times indicates it was off to a good start with interesting local news and several “personal columns” from St. Paul’s surrounding areas. However, advertising revenue wasn’t exactly pouring in. The paper appears to have been its own chief advertiser, with two quarter-page ads and several smaller ads, all making a strong business case for merchants to let their customers know what they were offering for sale.
Advertisers, prominent in this issue included C. C. Tiller, Ammar Brothers, and B & G Radio & Appliance Co. These businesses were located in recently constructed buildings on St. Paul’s bustling Broad Street. Of this trio, only Ammar Brothers remains in operation today – though not under the same name and not in St. Paul. The Ammar family’s chain of retail stores are now known as “Magic Mart” and bear no resemblance to the modest 1958 downtown business which occupied a single 25 foot storefront.
In 1958, a young woman named Peyton Richmond Russo was the Clinch Valley Times’ photographer. Mrs. Russo’s commercial photography studio was located on the second floor of the St. Paul Apartments, which was also her home for many years. In addition to newspaper photos and portrait work, Mrs. Russo shot crime scene photos for the Wise County coroner’s office. In doing so, she witnessed some gruesome sights. She took it in stride.
During the Bausell’s ownership, the Clinch Valley Times occupied rented space in the old St. Paul Supply building on Russell Street (now Frank Kilgore’s law office).
Eugene and Gladys Stewart
Eugene and Gladys Stewart both grew up in Norton and were married following Eugene’s military service in World War II. Eugene gained experience as a newspaperman through his employment at the Big Stone Gap Post and later at the Indianapolis Star. Next, he and his family moved to Manchester, Tennessee where he was employed by the Manchester Times.
In 1960, Eugene Stewart learned that the Bausell family of Lebanon was interested in selling the Clinch Valley Times in St. Paul. He and Gladys bought the paper; a huge step for them at that time. It meant another relocation for the Stewart’s five lively children, this time to St. Paul.
Most people who lived in St. Paul in the 1960’s will recall the Clinch Valley Times’ location in those days. It occupied the basement level underneath W. A. Turner’s commercial building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broad Street (present location of Samson’s Gym). Type for the paper was set on a Linotype machine. Linotypes were large, complicated pieces of equipment which cast type from molten lead. The resulting “lines of type” came out of the machine upside down and backwards. Linotype operators quickly developed the unique skill required to read the type produced by these machines.
It was hot work. The noise of the press, the fumes of printers’ ink and the solvents used to clean the press, all combined to make the newspaper office a challenging work environment. Children of that time period enjoyed peeking through the open bulkhead windows to catch a glimpse of a newspaper in production.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s the Clinch Valley Times was a larger newspaper than it is today. Because the local highway system was less sophisticated back then, most people did their daily shopping at home. Local family-owned businesses were the rule, not the exception. The Clinch Valley Times was chock-full of advertising, both from local businesses as well as those in surrounding communities – even businesses in Bristol and Kingsport. Competition for the Southwest Virginia dollars was keen, especially during the back-to-school season and the Christmas season.
A family business is challenging but it bonds family members in a unique way. The Stewart children were very much aware that even though they may have had less free time than other children, they were helping support their family and themselves. In spite of their heavy workload, both Eugene and Gladys Stewart made time to be active in the political and civic affairs of the St. Paul community, as well as their church. As a result of the self-discipline modeled by their parents, the Stewart children all became high achievers who performed well both in school and in extracurricular activities.
In 1972 the Stewarts moved the Clinch Valley Times to a new location – the old post office building on Broad Street. Printing technology had evolved and the massive, heavy equipment required in former days had become obsolete. Printing machinery had become both smaller and faster. The Broad Street location made both the newspaper and the commercial printing business more accessible and inviting to customers.
Regardless of its location, the paper’s greatest PR asset was still Gladys Stewart with her warm and welcoming personality. Mrs. Stewart never met a stranger. She set a high standard for her employees but she also knew how to make the work fun and less stressful.
Over the years, the Stewarts worked hard and they prospered. By the late 1960’s, they began to diversify their business interests. By 1974 it was time to focus on these new business enterprises and move forward. The Stewarts sold the Clinch Valley Times to Polly Young, Ann Gregory, and Allen Gregory.
Polly Young, Ann Gregory, Allen Gregory
In December of 1973, Mrs. Pauline Adams Young, her daughter Ann Young Gregory, and Ann’s husband, Allen Gregory, made the decision to embark upon a business venture. That business venture was the Clinch Valley Times.
David and Pauline Adams Young were both graduates of the University of Kentucky. David studied geology and Pauline (Polly) studied art. After competing graduate school, David spent 15 years as Professor of Geology at his Alma Mater, then left teaching to embark upon a successful career in private industry. By the early 1950’s, he had become Chief Geologist for Clinchfield Coal Company at Dante.
David and Polly Young began their married life and their working careers at the onset of the Great Depression. During the depression, credentials, a strong work ethic, and marketable skills were no guarantee you’d be able to earn a living. The couple endured some lean times when David did not receive his teaching salary because the college had no funds with which to m\pay him. But the Youngs were resourceful and they persevered, despite having to live on canned soup from time to time. And then their marriage was blessed by the arrival of a baby daughter. They named her Ann….
As she grew up, Ann acquired the love of learning and reading from her parents. Continuing the family tradition, Ann attended the University of Kentucky where she majored in communications. She graduated with honors and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Ann exemplifies that group’s motto, “Love of learning is the guide of life.”
While in college, Ann met a tall, lanky former soldier named Allen Gregory. Allen grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and had recently completed an enlistment in the U. S. Air Force. During his enlistment, he was stationed in France for 37 months, an experience which changed his view of the world. Allen told me that before meeting Ann, he was less serious about his education, perhaps drifting. That soon changed because Ann influenced her young man in a positive way, as young ladies often do.
Allen and Ann were married in 1957. This event took place at “The Clinchfield House” on Gray Hill. There was a glitch, however. Ann’s parents must have forgotten to invite Mother Nature to the wedding because that very week Mother Nature put on an event of her own – the Flood of 1957. High water in many parts of Southwest Virginia prevented some of the invited guests from attending the ceremony. Guests who had the good fortune to arrive early soon found themselves marooned in St. Paul and waiting for the floodwaters to recede. When they left St. Paul for their honeymoon, Allen and Ann’s car was the last one allowed to cross the Bickley Bridge leading out of town. It had been a hectic and eventful day.
Allen and Ann returned to Lexington to begin their married life. There, Allen worked part-time while attending graduate school. Ann found a job at WVLK in Lexington, where she became the radio station’s “traffic controller.” This job entailed coordinating and scheduling the station’s daily advertising and making it fit into the station’s regular programming. The trick was to schedule everything in such a way that commercials for rival products or conflicting services did not follow one another. The job was challenging but Ann enjoyed her work. This experience would prove useful in years to come.
In the early 1960’s, David Young was diagnosed with throat cancer. To be near him, Allen and Ann left their jobs in Lexington and moved to St. Paul. Allen accepted a job with Erwin supply in Dickenson County. He and Ann lived in an apartment over Halls Drugstore (now Appalachian Graphics). This apartment would be the first home of the Gregory’s son, David. Meanwhile, Ann became acquainted with the Stewart family, publishers of the Clinch Valley Times. Soon, Ann was writing a weekly newspaper column consisting of interviews with local people. Embracing life in their new hometown, both she and Allen became involved in community affairs as well as local clubs and organizations.
The Gregorys also became members of the St. Paul United Methodist Church. During their many years of church membership, they taught Sunday school, served on church boards, and performed whatever work their hands found to do. They did it well.
Two years after their son David was born, the Gregory family was blessed with a new arrival – a daughter they named Mary Peyton. The family needed more room and a yard where the children could play, so Allen, Ann, and their children moved to a house on Gray Hill.
The years passed by quietly, then in 1972, David Young died. He was deeply mourned by his family. After a period of adjustment, Polly Young decided to return to work. She had been employed by the Paintsville Herald newspaper for several years during the family’s residence in that city and she decided she would like to be part of the newspaper business once again. And that brings us back to the beginning of this story. But we’re far from its end.
Over the years, Mrs. Young and the Gregorys would write thousands of articles, attending thousands of sports events, scholastic events, political events, elections, and hundreds of St. Paul Town Council meetings along the way. As a yardstick by which their efforts can be measured, just how many of you readers living within the Town of St. Paul have attended even one council meeting? Oh…I see. You didn’t have to attend those meetings because Ann and Allen were there writing it all down for you.
Both Ann and Allen Gregory displayed unconditional support for the young people of this area, providing newspaper recognition of students’ academic and sports achievements. Ann worked tirelessly as a member of the Wise County School Board and as a concerned citizen to support quality education at every level in Wise County and in the state. Allen served as a member of the St. Paul Town Council for a total of 27 years, and even ran for mayor once. Both the Gregorys supported the St. Paul Redevelopment Project, the efforts of St. Paul Tomorrow, and the Downtown Revitalization Project. They staunchly opposed the closing of St. Paul High School and stood fast in their belief that community schools are the best schools, and that education must never be a bargain-basement proposition.
Allen and Ann Gregory were my friends. They may not have been born here, and they may not be related to everyone in four counties, but no two people loved St. Paul more than they did. I am thankful God let them here….where they belonged.